Of all the many movie monsters — vampires, werewolves, witches, dragons, what have you — zombies are my most treasured. They are terror on legs. Some legs are slow; they creep up on you like a movable plague (as in Night Of The Living Dead and all its Romero sequels). Some legs are fast (28 Days and Weeks Later). World War Z, the latest film from director Marc Forster, based on the acclaimed novel by the Brooks boy, Max, is infested with zombies who aren’t only fast; they’re relentless. Frighteningly relentless.
There’s a scene early on where a bunch of them are chasing after our hero, Gerry (Brad Pitt), as he climbs some steel steps to make it to the roof where a safety helicopter is waiting to ferry he and his family (and a recently orphaned Spanish boy) to a faraway military haven. Gerry reaches the top and runs for the chopper. He jumps on. The chopper rises and hovers away from the building ledge. The zombies sprint faster than ever, arms flailing, all sorts of gurgling noises echoing through the screams and gunfire. And then they reach the building ledge, the chopper just out of reach. What do they do? Do they stop? Oh hell no. They launch themselves at the chopper, like rubber pellets flung from a slingshot. Some grab hold, others bounce off the hull and fall hundreds of feet. Others miss entirely. When the chopper has cleared the vicinity, zombies are still pouring off the ledge. This is crazy.
Oh but that’s where all the fun is. World War Z is an unhinged thrill ride. A wonderfully scary zombie adventure that has more brains than many other shock flicks put together. Sure, no movie about the undead can ever be truly intelligent. But World War Z understands that the genre has been done to the ground, or rather Max Brooks understands it. So the story provides as much depth to the apocalypse as it can muster. It successfully combines the zombie rage with the mystery thriller: Gerry Lane, once a high-ranking investigator for the UN, has to travel the globe to try and discover the birthplace of this new disease, which turns your everyday man, woman, and child (interestingly, no child is seen in zombie form here) into a disjointed body of flesh-eating madness. They can run — boy can they run — and they throw themselves at their targets. What’s interesting here is that, unlike the zombie pioneers of Romero’s pictures, these creatures don’t feed on living tissue. We later find out that they are like a virus, and they need a host to survive. So they bite to infect, not to eat.
What’s also interesting about this picture is its clever divergence from flowering romance. Unforeseen circumstances, which I will not attempt to spoil you with, place Gerry with a gung-ho female Israeli soldier (Daniella Kertesz). He becomes her carer, and she displays her gratitude by choosing to be his loyal bodyguard. The number of times I expected them to fall in love. There’s a scene aboard an airplane that almost seems to scream “Kiss, goddammit!”. But they don’t. Gerry’s a happily married man, and his scenes with his family at the start of the movie are especially loveable — “Hey, plates in the sink!”. Their relationship is what carries the movie. Gerry isn’t the Han Solo type. He’s the methodical family man type. And thankfully, he remembers that.
There are some brilliantly staged sequences in this movie. The scenes in Philadelphia are tasty and shocking, and the wall-climb in Jerusalem is a feat of CGI technology. There are also great sequences involving an airplane, a run through a military airfield in South Korea in darkness and heavy rainfall, and a quest to retrieve some lethal pathogens from a zombie-infested medical research facility. Why our characters want to brave zombieland — chortle — for a few vials of deadly viruses, I will not say. It’s intrinsic to the plot. But I will say that it’s a smart discovery, and the payoff is exceptionally relieving.
The movie is directed by Marc Forster, who’s probably most famous for turning James Bond into a Tom Cruisian action hero. World War Z is his element. It’s action, left, right, and centre. There’s no need for little nuances, or a suave hero, and he knows this. The zombie apocalypse has always been a fascinating subject. Who knows? It might really happen. All it takes is for some genius to accidentally contaminate our water supply, and poof! — here come the cataracts. Thousands of people across the globe have already prepared for the end. They’ve got their Shaun Of The Dead cricket bats and shovels ready to spring. Do I believe in a zombie apocalypse? No. But heck, I’d love to see one happen. From a safe distance of course.
Best Moment | Many many. All the scenes with zombies are fantastic.
Worst Moment | Nope.